Archive for February, 2009

Book Signing Q&A: Alice Schroeder, author of the Buffett biography “Snowball”

February 19th, 2009 No comments

These are my notes from a book signing event Alice Schroeder gave on her Buffett biography called “Snowball.”

-Buffett as “very hurt” during the tech bubble on any criticism that he “lost his touch”
-She got on Buffett’s 200 people Christmas card list
-He has a silly child-like side. He is like a little kid that wants to be loved by everyone
-When he organized a Hooter’s gag Christmas card photograph with Bill Gates, he was upset that all the girls wanted Bill’s autograph on their shirt, not one asked for his
-He was excited for weeks when Asia Carrera, online porn star, cited Buffett as one of her heroes
-In a way he wants everyone to be his mom. Alice felt that tug also, but at the end of writing her book she had to back away from that role. It is “really awkward” between them now. There is “no friction” per se, but he has “mixed feelings” and “ambivalent” about the book. She thinks it was “painful” for him to have all his personal details out there for everyone to read. They have some “email correspondence”, but other than that they don’t talk
-She had extensive interviews with Charlie Munger. He said, “I only listen when I’m talking”, which she says is “very true”
-The most surprising thing about Buffett was how “very vulnerable and insecure he is” personally compared to his unshakeable confidence in his business decisions.
-Warren is one of the toughest negotiators. He is a “dangler”. He never commits to anything, but makes you feel if you do what he wants, maybe he’ll give you want you want
-”Writing a biography is difficult if you don’t have a life.” It was hard to structure the book between his personal and business sides as they were completely separate. Also there were extended periods of time where he didn’t have a personal life. He was obsessed with investing, money, and working. He was driven. He loved it. He “didn’t have a choice, it’s who he is”
-One of his important qualities as a leader was his ability to stay on message. He can repeat the same 10 things over and over and never deviate
-She enjoyed being around Bill Gates as he and Buffett had a wonderful relationship. Bill looks up to Buffett like a father. Bill also has broader interests and is a really good investor
-She doesn’t think Ajit Jain will be the next CEO of Berkshire. He doesn’t want it and isn’t a manager
-Buffett gets no pleasure from giving away or spending money. His life’s purpose was growing the snowball
-Buffett’s biggest mistake, he would say in private, is doing whatever it was that caused his wife to move away. He would do anything to get her back, dancing etc., but Alice says “except change who he was”
-She is working on her next book. She will also continue public speaking and work on different kinds of writing

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